Five Things: Wednesday 25th June

My two favourite bits of ephemera found on the web this week
Roxy Music small ad in the Music Press. Those were the days. I think the pic on the right was an album cover, but I’m not sure. Whatever, top marks!

Roxy
Horseless Headmen, The Harrison

HH

Forty five minutes of improvised fabulousness: with added drummer, Tom Atherton, who imbued proceedings with a mighty roar that still allowed the terrific Nick Cash (regular drummer) to decorate and amplify the noise with bells, bike chains and upturned water dispensers. Guitarist G Painting seemed to be initiating the proceedings this time round, alternating an almost metal attack with delicate and spiky Chinoiserie. Bassist Ivor Kallin was propulsive and gulping, and trombonist Paul Taylor’s organic rasp and great ear for a melody (he’d been playing along to Duke Ellington on the sound system before they started) added to the Headless mix. Sometimes it felt and sounded like they were building the Titanic in a tiny basement; at others, when they stroked a melody tenderly, like a warm bath.

Mavis Staples talking to Elon Green about recording The Weight for The Last Waltz, The New Yorker
Just an excerpt: “The Last Waltz was, as Helm wrote in his memoir, deemed “too lily-white and missing something crucial.” And so, not long after the show, the Staples Singers, a popular gospel group and old friends of the Band, performed “The Weight” on an M.G.M. soundstage in front of an audience of two hundred and fifty people. As the song finishes up, the camera settles on the Staples family—Roebuck (“Pops”), out of focus in the background, and his daughters, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis. Mavis, closest to the camera, throws her head back, leans toward the mic, and says, almost inaudibly, “Beautiful.” Here is Mavis Staples’s memory of that session: “It was so beautiful to me. I was surprised that was caught on tape, you know, because I thought I was whispering. It wasn’t rehearsed to go like that. It was just a feeling that brought that on. The excitement of being with our friends—Levon and Danko and those guys were such good friends of ours—to be singing with them, and knowing that this is going to be on the big screen, the silver screen, it was just a moment in time for me…

Scorsese gave us all a break at one point, and everybody scattered. Levon was on his drums, still drumming. So Pops walked back there. “Hey, Levon!” Levon said, “Hey Roebuck!” And they talked a bit, and all of a sudden Pops realized that Levon was smokin’ two cigarettes. He said, “Levon, man, you’re smoking two cigarettes at a time?” And Levon held one of ’em up and said, “Oooooooh, Roebuck. You gotta try this one!” And that one was marijuana! Pops said, “Man, I don’t want none of that mess.” Daddy was so tickled. We talked about that forever

And I remember everything about it. I remember every moment that we had doing that. Pops said, “Mavis! Baby, you shouldn’t carry it out so long like that,” when I go, “Heeeyyyy yeeeeaaah.” And I said, “Nah, daddy, that’s the good part. That’s what I feel.” He said, “O.K., do what you feel. That’s the best thing. Do what you feel.”

Busking at Clapham, 1980s
Among Bob Mazzer’s pictures of the London underground during the 80s at the Howard Griffin Gallery I was drawn to this as Clapham Common was my local tube station then (this could be Clapham North or South, all three look alike). Doesn’t that seem like a proto-Jack White, down in the tube station at midnight? And I don’t think the guy singing is actually with the band…

Clapham

Bob Dylan by artist Martin Creed, The Guardian
Jeff also gave me tapes, including a bootleg of the Bootleg Tapes (I think they mean the Basement Tapes – ed) that I still play. I have a lot of cassettes from that time and a car that plays tapes, so I still listen to Jeff’s bootleg when I’m driving. I love the Bootleg Series: those funny versions of songs often seem better than the official versions. They haven’t been cleaned up. I got into Bob Dylan, again, because of the 1997 album Time Out of Mind, which seemed like the start of a whole new thing. It’s the most beautiful, peaceful music, but also the funniest, most thoughtful and stupid music I could possibly imagine. It feels like it’s got everything in it, but without necessarily making sense. Things fly in from left, right and centre. There are different ideas, turns of phrase, beautiful pieces of music, catchy bits, but it’s mysterious and I can’t understand it. It doesn’t add up. One song, “Highlands”, is 15 minutes long and sounds as though he’s just making the story up as he goes along. It’s brilliant. It reminds me of something I’m told the painter Gerhard Richter once said: “I want my work to be stupid, like nature.”

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 10th October

Genius Idea Of The Week
Nick Paumgarten writes about record producer Scott Litt, New Yorker, October 1st.
When Scott Litt built a recording studio in the back of his house, in Venice, California, seven years ago, he did it with Bob Dylan in mind. He pictured Dylan sitting there at the Hammond organ, accompanied by nothing but drums and a standup bass. Or maybe in an arrangement featuring a banjo and a trumpet. “I always imagined him having a Louis Armstrong Hello, Dolly sound,” Litt said the other day. “Musically, that’s as American as it gets.” [Sadly, when Litt was hired to engineer Bob’s latest, Tempest, and] …got up the nerve to mention his idea, it didn’t go over very well. [Bob] just went, “Heh heh heh—Hello Dolly.”

This, From The Very Wonderful “Letters Of Note”
In 1919 [at which point he was just 9 years old] Samuel Barber wrote the following letter to his mother and left it on his desk for her to find. She did, and a year later Barber began to compose his first opera, The Rose Tree. He was still only 26 years of age when, in 1936, he finished his most famous work, Adagio for Strings.
“NOTICE to Mother and nobody else
Dear Mother: I have written this to tell you my worrying secret. Now don’t cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my fault. I suppose I will have to tell it now without any nonsense. To begin with I was not meant to be an athlet [sic]. I was meant to be a composer, and will be I’m sure. I’ll ask you one more thing.—Don’t ask me to try to forget this unpleasant thing and go play football.—Please—Sometimes I’ve been worrying about this so much that it makes me mad (not very),
Love,
Sam Barber II

Roll On, John
Stanley Reynolds’ piece for The Guardian, 3 June 1963, reprinted this week: “Inside the club, down CND symbol smeared walls to a dark and bronchial cave, the dancers have originated the Cavern Stomp, because they did not have room enough to twist. In the dressing room off stage a steady flow of rock artistes come to talk with Mr Bob Wooler, the Cavern’s full-time disc jockey whose visiting card tells you, with Dickensian charm, that he is “a rhythm and blues consultant.” That is The Cavern, duffel coats and feigned boredom. On tour it is like a Hollywood success story. At the Odeon, Manchester, in the Beatles’ dressing room, the four boys were asking a reporter from a disc magazine to please see if she could do something to stop girls from sending them jelly babies. She had once said they liked them. “We’ve got two ton of them now,” John Lennon said. “Tell them to send us E-type Jaguars or button-down shirts.” Someone came in and said two girls had won them in a contest. “Just who are these girls who won us?” John Lennon asked. “I mean, how long have they won us for.”

“Hear What I’m Saying, I’m Not Saying It Right”
Random Acts [a series of short films chosen for their bold and original expressions of creativity] Channel 4.
Comedian and poet Sean Mahoney, directed by Jeremy Cole. An age-old subject, a harrington jacket, a little bit of Mike Skinner in the delivery. Vulnerable and sharp at the same time. A talent. Lovely.

Record Cover Of The Week

Paris flea market purchase. Just listened to. As you’d expect, The Surfaris via St Malo.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 8th August

Killing Me Softly With Their Song
Now the second season of The Killing has come to an end I’ll hear no more the striking and enigmatic theme, my favourite piece of tv music. Some Great Detectiveness (© Bob Burden’s genius Flaming Carrot) leads me to find that it was written by a couple of London-based musicians (see Alabama 3/The Sopranos for similar US tv/London-based musician interface). Richard File and Wendy Rae Fowler perform as We Fell To Earth—name and logo influenced by the Nic Roeg/David Bowie film The Man Who Fell To Earth. I resolve to find out more…

Readers/Writers
Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian: This week Aditya read David Remnick’s profile of Bruce Springsteen. “Is it a sign of age when you read a music piece not because you like the singer, but the journalist?” I don’t think it is. My guide to the quality of writing in a magazine has always been the same—how many pieces have I read here that are about subjects that are of no, or little, interest to me. The higher the number, the better the writing.

Desert Island Discs 1; Saro by Sam Amidon.
In the performance with Bill Frisell live at the Poisson Rouge on Vimeo. Sam essays the song’s chords on an old dustbowl-dull Martin, a professorial Frisell to his left as they take this beautiful ballad for a stroll down by a clear flowing stream. Frisell is such an inspirational player, and, playing off Sam’s elegant and affecting plainsong, wraps his fearless, serpentine lines around the vocal. It’s a wonderfully openhearted performance, and Bill’s smile at the end treasurable.

The Musical Life, New Yorker, July 23
Watts said the difference between playing jazz in clubs and playing rock and roll with the Stones was the volume. “Also in jazz you’re closer,” he said. “In a football stadium, you can’t say you’re closely knit together. It’s difficult to know what Mick’s up to when you can’t even see him. He’s gone around the corner and he’s half a mile away.”—Alec Wilkinson

Olympic Music
The BBC have pulled out their Battles and xx mp3s with a vengeance for the Olympics, tracking short films about the rowers or cyclists with choice selections, but the overwhelming memory of music at the Games will be Vangelis’ bloody Chariots Of Fire. At first I thought the IOC and LOGOC had just done away with the National Anthems altogether in the Medal Ceremonies and gone with the uplifting, glorious and triumphant™ Britfilm classic, but it turns out that it just soundtracks most of it, before ending with the winners anthem. Ol’ Vangelis’ royalty cheque should make interesting reading…

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